Space Oddities: Drakkar Sauna, May 18 at RIBCO Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 15 May 2009 14:49

Drakkar SaunaHere are three things that Wallace Cochran told me in an interview last week to promote Drakkar Sauna's May 18 performance at RIBCO:

  • The old-school country duo's upcoming album (set to be released on August 1) is titled 20009, which is pronounced "two thousand-ousand nine."
  • "It's a theme record. It's about astronauts and love. Mostly astronauts and rocket travel and the failures of rocket travel in history."
  • "Jeff [Stolz] definitely brought the Louvin Brothers to our relationship, and I'm glad I could respond to that with Mandy Patinkin."

A word of warning: None of this is necessarily true. Interviews with Drakkar Sauna typically play like dry comedy routines between Cochran and Stolz, as if they were lost members of Spinal Tap. For evidence, see the e-mail interview between the band and founder Sean Moeller, who has previously featured the band on his site and is bringing them back to town for the show and another recording session.

But while the band's interview style might be self-effacing and silly, and there's undoubtedly an oddball element to the music, it would be wrong to accuse Drakkar Sauna of not taking its craft seriously. On the band's albums, indie-sensibilities are fused with old-time country in an appealingly ramshackle concoction that sounds as if it came from a time-traveling saloon.

Last year the band released War & Tornadoes, which surprisingly stripped away the strangeness for loving covers of Louvin Brothers songs. Drakkar Sauna mimics the close harmonies from the middle of the last century without a hint of irony or a smirk.

"It was more something we had to get out of our system," Wallace said, repeating the words of Stolz, who was driving and not on the phone. "They were so influential to him [Stolz] that he continued to go back to them again and again as a touchstone, and he just needed to move on."

"It was hard to nail those tight harmonies down," Stolz said.

"Lorene" was particularly challenging, Wallace said: "What I was doing on that is still kind of confounding to me."

While Drakkar Sauana didn't consult with Charlie Louvin on the album (Ira Louvin died in a car accident in 1965), the band did meet him in Nashville when they were promoting War & Tornadoes, and they even played a few songs with him. They offered Louvin as many copies of the record as he wanted, and he took four, Wallace said.

Obviously, moving to space travel from the Louvin oeuvre is a dramatic shift, but Wallace said that while the lyrical content is different, the band isn't now aping Bowie.

"We really haven't improved that much, or enough, to make a giant leap" musically, he said. "But we do have some real talented musicians ... on the record."

He also said that he doesn't think there's a disconnect between space travel and country music: "The themes are lyrical as opposed to being driven by music."

In fairness, 20009 doesn't sound like a sci-fi concept album. Wallace said the band read up on the history of space flight, from the technology to the Cold War politics.

"To really talk about it honestly, it seemed like I had to go back to the initial idea of thermodynamics, and the connection between thermodynamics and the actual use of the rocket," Wallace said. "The more we looked into it, the more we wrote about it."

All of this sounds perfectly reasonable, although I'm skeptical about something Wallace said about Blood Feud, the shoestring-budget movie he wrote and directed that Stolz acted in. (While they were working on the score, Drakkar Sauna was born.) The movie was screened a few times, but Wallace said that the project isn't truly finished.

"Technology has not yet caught up with our ambition," he said, noting that he's waiting for advances in "android and computer technology."

But as strange as it sounds, Wallace seems deadly serious about his fascination with Patinkin, the actor and tenor best known for his roles on Chicago Hope and Criminal Minds.

I ask Wallace whether he hears any Patinkin influence in Drakkar Sauna's music. His reply: "I strive for Mandy Patankin. I think maybe I could touch maybe the tentacles of his agent, but never him."

Drakkar Sauna will perform at RIBCO on Monday, May 18. The show starts at 8 p.m., and cover is $5.

Drakkar Sauna's Daytrotter session can be found here. For more information on the band, visit or

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